Time needed: 10 minutes.
It is not easy to find a perfect skincare routine for yourself, which works wonders for your skin. That’s why I put together this guide on how to layer your Korean skincare routine based on my personal experience.
Layering is a method that uses multiple products to create deeper hydration and can help fight stubborn acne and even prevent signs of aging! I’ve always loved layering because it makes your routine more fun and less boring and it really makes you feel pampered! If you’re keen, here’s a post I wrote on how to layer your Korean skincare routine step by step.
Should you be layering your Korean skincare routine? Having a complicated routine can be overwhelming and confusing. But I’m here to make it easy for you with this layered Korean skincare routine tutorial.
The first step to a healthy skin care routine, cleansing is extremely important to me. The No. 1 thing it does is remove makeup and dirt from the first layer of your skin. Keeping the first layer of my epidermis clean is crucial in preventing acne or other problems from developing. My favorite cleanser to use is the Missha MakeUp Remover Cleansing Foam Oily Clean because it effectively removes every bit of makeup I’m wearing without stripping away my skin’s natural oils.
Your cleanser is a vital part of your routine because it ensures that all traces of makeup, dirt, and oil are removed from your skin. This allows your skin to absorb as much of your second step as possible.
Using the right cleanser is important in the Korean skincare routine. When I first started out with Korean skincare I thought that was pretty much it. My usual ritual was to remove my makeup with an oil-based cleanser, wash my face twice and off I go.
Cleansers are the first step in your Korean skincare routine. You basically get all of your daily face gunk off at once to prepare for the other steps in the routine. In the morning, I use a makeup remover and makeup wipe first, then a cleanser. At night, you don’t wear as much makeup so you can just get rid of it with a cleanser alone.
Commonly Korean skincare routines will say that it is okay to cleanse your face either morning or night, however I personally prefer to cleanse my face at night as it will clean my pores of dirt and excess oil which will make my skin feel less oily throughout the day, especially during summer.
You’ve finished your thorough double cleansing routine, and finally are ready to treat your skin properly. Your second step is the toner! If your skincare routine was graded like a school paper, toner has the potential to bump you up from a B+ to an A+. Toner will not only refine your skin texture and smooth out any remaining dirt and residues, but also add in other beneficial ingredients that help even out and brighten your skin tone for a healthy glow.
One of the mistakes I made when I first started getting into Korean skincare was not layering my toner. This was because I had high expectations from the CosRx Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol and never gave any other toners a proper chance. While the CosRx natural BHA toner is great for controlling sebum from building up, it’s not as gentle as some of the other toners out there for those with sensitive skin.
This step is important as it helps to balance your skin’s pH and prepares it for the rest of your skincare routine. Also, it may be one of the most boring steps in your whole Korean skincare routine but it’s well worth being the second step! Plus, you only have to put on toner before using the rest of your products (i.e., essence, serum, emulsion, cream, and/or sleeping pack). You can easily do this by patting it into your skin after cleansing.
Despite what some K-Beauty blogs would make you to believe. It is meant to prep your skin for the serums that will be applied after, so it’s important that you choose a toner with no alcohol (an ingredient that dries out your skin). I’ll give you a range of products and prices so you will find options that work best for your budget.
The next step in your Korean skincare routine is essences. These are light, highly refreshing liquids that boost the effectiveness of your moisturizer and home in on specific skin concerns like blemishes or dullness. They are applied after toners but before serums and can be used either as a stand alone skincare step or as a booster to a serum or cream moisturizer.
No matter how much moisturizing you do, your skin is still going to be thirsty in winter. That’s where essences come in. The watery essence will hydrate and nourish your skin, without weighing it down. It is the third and final layer of your base makeup routine.
If you skipped the toner, this would be your last step before moving onto the cream in your skincare routine. But since the role of a toner is parallel to that of an essence, it makes sense to treat them as one product and build upon them.
Another part of your Korean skincare routine that is often misunderstood is the all-important essence. You may be wondering why it is its own step. Well, after cleansing and toning, you need to block out any makeup that may still be left on your skin while also replenishing moisture (that your cleanser and toner removed).
Many people think that toner is the next step. Toner comes after cleansing; it’s a necessity to remove your cleanser. Essence also has some of the same functions as toner, like removing residue left behind by your cleanser and supplying hydration to the skin. However, toner often contains alcohol and other ingredients that can be irritating to your skin. These ingredients are often banned in Korea because they are too harsh for sensitive skin. Instead, you can use essence.
The fourth step of your Korean skincare routine is to apply an ampoule, a concentrated liquid formula which you then let it absorb into your skin. Ampoules are in between toners and essences; they tend to have all the benefits of toners + serums and are highly concentrated so they can achieve multiple tasks at once. This should be applied after your toner and before your essence.
You have already cleansed and moisturized, now it is time to amp things up a little. Ampoule are highly concentrated serums that contain active ingredients like vitamins and nutrients. They are a step above essence in their concentration of active ingredients.
Now that you have toners, essences, and serums on your skin is when you’ll want to add an ampoule. This Korean skincare step can be considered a treatment essence but typically comes in a more syrupy, thicker consistency, which helps it to stay more put so it doesn’t run all over the place.
Bouncy, bright, and plump skin is just a few steps away! We’ve already discussed the first three layers that provide moisture and toning to the skin, but we can’t neglect this layer of your Korean skincare routine: ampoule.
I use Ampoule for my night time routine “treatment” to finally seal up and maximize the effects of the products I’ve applied on. Think of this as an extra step that goes beyond your basic skincare routine to help you achieve even better results. It’s not for everyone, but if you have the patience and are after better skin, this is worth it!
Apply a serum after your ampoule or lotion. Serums are similar to ampoules, except with a higher concentration of active ingredients and in a gooier base. Because they’re so powerful, it’s important to use them sparingly so you don’t overwhelm your skin.
Many blogs will tell you that serums are the most important product in your routine and for good reason. Serums help to absorb into the skin more deeply than anything else and deliver a powerful punch of antioxidants, anti-agers, and various other active ingredients.
Serums were the exciting, new hot products that promised to give you firm and smooth skin, minimize pores and even out your skin tone. You can layer one or two serums underneath you moisturizer depending on what you want it for. If you have dry skin, you might want to layer a hydrating serum underneath your moisturizer, but if you have oily skin or large pores, you can add a pore shrinking serum or clarifying serum instead.
Choose a serum that has ingredients such as niacinamide (vitamin B3), rosemary extract or willow bark extract because they help promote collagen and reduce redness in your skin in addition.
The whole 10-step Korean skincare routine process is a lot to take in, especially when you’re just starting out! If you really want to get the most out of your Korean skincare products, one of the most important steps to add into your routine is a serum.
A serum acts as a boost of hydration and can give your skin the extra oomph it needs to keep acne and oiliness at bay. Serums can be confusing though, because they all seem to do different things for your skin.
- SHEET MASK
Sheet masks are my favorite part of the Korean skincare routine. Literally, my favorite thing ever in the history of ever. Sheet masks look intimidating to use – you’re putting a sheet on your face? You think of public health issues and your skin image crumbles to the ground. Daily sheet masking is actually pretty easy, once you get the hang of it. And it’s not gross or unsanitary like some people think.
Despite being the most neglected step in a skincare routine, sheet masks are arguably the most important step. Here’s why.
n terms of application, sheet masks are the most no-brainer way to slather on those hydration and nutrients into your face. From Ooh la la, a cleansing water gel from Purito, to Leejiham’s famous Propolis Ampoule that plumps up skin fast.
Sheet masks are an essential part of my Korean skincare routine. Their main purpose is to hydrate but they also have additional benefits such as improving skin tone, reducing acne, preventing aging and more. Adding a sheet mask to your routine can be daunting at first but I hope after reading this, you will feel more confident about using them.
Layer sheet masks at the end of your routine, just before your sleeping pack. The sheet mask is the final step to your routine and provides that extra boost of hydration. Sheets masks are great for plumping up your skin so it’s crucial to use the last step before you sleep!
- EYE CREAM
If you thought your Korean skincare routine was complete, you’re wrong. You missed the most important step… can we all just take a moment and bow our heads for the eye cream. It’s not what you might think it is; in fact, this step is mainly focused on treating skin around the eye area to reduce puffiness and wrinkles— which every Korean woman wants to avoid at all costs. This doesn’t mean your anti-aging eye cream won’t do any good — it just means that one should be added after the rest of your skincare routine.
This step is important because your eyes are very delicate and need special care. Wouldn’t it be great if there was one product that you could wear around your entire face? That way, you wouldn’t have to switch between different creams based on where you put them.
Eye cream is one of those skincare products that requires you to invest in a good quality product. It’s kind of forgotten, but still vital, “step” in the Korean beauty routine.
Eye cream needs to be rich and hydrating, for obvious reasons, so if you have oily skin, you’ll probably want to stick with a gel-based eye cream.
Eye cream is an important part of the Korean Skincare routine. Many people don’t want to add eye cream because it seems unnecessary, or they just forget about it. Eye cream also seems small compared to the other products. The last thing people think about adding into their routine is an extra step when they have so many steps to put in already! Or maybe you do, but you just still don’t want to add another product into the mix. I’ve been there myself, so I understand!
The 8th step is moisturizer! Moisturizers do exactly what the name suggests: they moisturize your skin, but how do they do it?
Forget to moisturize? Unlike the rest of your routine, I find that this step is most frequently omitted for one reason or another. Whether it’s as simple as ‘I forgot’ or forgetting how much your skin really needs it, one should never underestimate the importance of a good moisturizer. This final and equally important step in our skincare routine will complete our skin detoxification. Moisture plays a major role in keeping your skin healthy and vibrant. It holds all the nutrients in your skin together so they can be absorbed by your skin. This happens to be an important part of reducing fine lines, wrinkles, age spots on your hands from frequent contact with water, sun damage, and improper diet.
If you’ve got dry skin, then you are going to want to layer up. If the number of steps isn’t enough for your dry skin, then it is definitely time to hold up. Moisturizers will be put in between all of these different layers and this is the last step of layering that you need to do.
Moisturizer is an essential part of the Korean skincare routine. It’s the final step in your skin care routine before makeup and bed, so it’s important to invest in a good moisturizer. Moisturizer can make or break your skin, choosing the right moisturizer is crucial.
You should have already cleansed, toned and treated your skin before layering on the moisturizer. As a basic rule of thumb, you can use any hydrating moisturizer that suits your skin type. I chose to use the Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Lotion because I love the way this product works on my combination-oily skin. The Green Tea line from Innisfree maintains a light and fresh scent. It keeps my skin very supple and less oily throughout the day.
Okay, okay—here is the last step in my Korean skincare routine and it’s one that I never miss. I know a lot of people, including dermatologists who are adamant that sunscreen be your last step in the routine. Here’s why: sunscreen straight from the bottle or tube is too heavily filtered to work effectively on your skin. Around 80% of all skincare products typically contain ingredients to protect your skin from UV rays – they basically screen out UV rays so that your skin will still look its best. That’s why you want to put sunscreen last so that there won’t be any interference with how well the other products work.
One of the most important yet overlooked aspect of skincare is sunscreen. This step is not optional and should never be skipped. Always apply sunscreen before go out to protect your skin from UV damage. For oily skin type, there are sunscreens that absorb quickly with light weight formula that doesn’t make your face feel greasy.
These types of sunscreen are usually made from Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide, which contain a bigger particle size than chemical sunscreen ingredient like avobenzone (aka Parsol 1789), octinoxate, octocrylene and homosalate. The larger particle size makes it less likely to penetrate into the pores, decreasing the risk of clogged pore and breakouts.
In a normal routine you should be doing double cleansing, this means you have to get off your makeup with oil cleanser. Then you need to remove the leftover oil on your face with a water-based cleanser. After that it’s time for toner, serum and lotion. Sunscreen is the last product in your daily routine and is optional in a Korean skincare set up.
The sun is a harsh mistress, even if you’re not living in the Tropics year-round and suffering from UV ray burns. Everyone wants to have a glowing, youthful complexion. And the thing is, some people think they don’t need to use sunscreen because they don’t go outside very much or aren’t very pale. But that’s just not the case! Studies show that even if you’re inside most of the time or are dark-skinned, you should still wear SPF 15 every day as part of your Korean skincare routine.